Strengthening the autonomy of municipalities and the population

Project description

Title: Support for decentralisation and poverty reduction (ADLP III)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Central Africa
Overall term: 2017 to 2020

An official sitting in front of a PC. Administrative bodies working digitally.

Context

The Burundian Government is committed to the 2000 Arusha peace process, which reduces poverty in the country and creates long-term peace. As a means of peacebuilding, the decentralisation of the country, which involves the promotion of regional and local self-determination, is at the forefront of this process. However, the legal framework needed to transfer policy-making processes and greater responsibility to local authorities is lacking. Furthermore, the local population is rarely involved in decisions that affect them.

Local authorities in Burundi are the most important contacts for citizens in rural areas. A strong local administration is crucial to the country’s positive development. However, local authorities currently lack funds as tax revenues are too low. Staff are not sufficiently trained, which means that skills such as local administration, financial management, project management and evaluation are virtually non-existent. Due to the low level of revenue, local authorities are unable to overcome these deficiencies; staff training courses, for example, are not financially viable. Civil society organisations are also poorly developed and have barely any involvement in decisions that directly affect citizens.

This small country faces further challenges. Burundi is one of the world’s poorest nations and since 2015 has experienced a political and economic crisis which has exacerbated this situation further. Over half of all citizens do not have enough to eat on a permanent basis. Youth unemployment is also extremely high, with 65 per cent of 15 to 35-year-olds in Bujumbura, the country’s largest city, unemployed. In rural areas, more than half of the population falls in to this age group.

Objective

Local governments and municipal authorities have been strengthened. The local population’s living conditions have improved and citizens are more involved in decision-making processes.

Approach

As a result of the political crisis, the programme is currently being implemented independently of the Burundi Government. It is pursuing a holistic advisory approach in order to strengthen local structures. The programme is being implemented in the 11 municipalities of Gitega Province and six municipalities of Mwaro Province.

Local governance and improved framework conditions for the decentralisation policy: Existing local administrative capacity is being enhanced. The programme is also involving the population in local planning and decision-making. Municipal employees and stakeholders of civil society groups are being given training and advice. For example, training on local planning, project management and monitoring, as well as training courses on procurement and management of financial resources are planned. The programme also plays an active role in helping promote the digitalisation of local authorities, for example by providing hardware and software and training staff on how to use it.

Civil society participation: The programme supports civil society organisations and the involvement of the local population in local governance through staff development, organisational advisory services and the promotion of networks. For example, the programme advises civil society groups and citizens’ initiatives in networking so that they are able to better represent the interests of citizens.

Local economic development: The programme improves the framework for economic development in municipalities and boosts the local economy in both provinces. This includes small-scale farmers receiving advice, for example in cultivation techniques to increase their yields, thus increasing food security. Of particular importance is the support of women and young people, such as through workshops for young people who want to start a business. The programme also advises local authorities in creating employment opportunities for young people, for instance through the provision of arable land.

The programme uses modern digital tools in all of its activities to support the country’s digitalisation.

A man and woman planting bananas.

Results

  • Local authorities are working much more effectively as a result of technical training courses. Public contracts are now awarded in accordance with regulations and accounting in the authorities has also improved. Local civil servants are paid on time and tax revenue in Gitega and Mwaro has risen by 20 per cent. As a result of this additional revenue, local infrastructure such as roads and schools can be developed. Citizens are provided with higher-quality services.
  • Citizen participation has increased significantly, as demonstrated by the programme’s surveys. In 2017, almost half the population participated in local accountability meetings. More than 70 per cent of people in Mwaro and Gitega feel well-integrated in decision-making processes in their municipalities.
  • Over 23,000 small-scale farmers have learnt better cultivation techniques for bananas, potatoes and maize. As a result, they have been able to boost their productivity. New jobs have been created, including seasonal employment for harvest workers. The Mwaro and Gitega provinces have harvested around four times more potatoes and five times more bananas compared to the national average.
  • More than 430,800 people have increased their income, 32 per cent of which are women and 22 per cent are young people. Training courses in basket weaving, brick-making and in setting up a business have helped to create 535 jobs.
  • Digital tools are used more frequently in the region. For example, small-scale farmers obtain higher yields thanks to advice provided via SMS or WhatsApp. Local authorities archive their data and documents digitally. In particular, new scanners enable them to digitalise birth, marriage and death certificates, thus preventing them from going missing. A large number of municipal staff have already received training courses on IT.

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